.Opinion: The Pajaro Levee Breaches. What Now?

A community of mostly migrant farmworkers is under water

EDITORIAL NOTE

The 300-foot breach in the Pajaro River levee, just south of Watsonville, has forced over 2,000 residents from their homes. As of Sunday, more than 5,000 Monterey County residents remained under an evacuation order or warning. And it ain’t over. More rain is expected this week.

Officials have said it’ll be months before many homes in the area will be habitable again. Meanwhile, an entire community is under putrid water tainted by various chemicals. Even if residents can reach their homes, wading through the rancid standing water is unsafe. Oh, and the stretch of Hwy 1 that was closed off on Sunday, March 12, due to the breach makes it more difficult for Pajaro residents to navigate to safety. The flooding has also impacted the Pajaro Water System, which is likely contaminated. Pajaro residents have been advised to avoid tap water—even if boiled for cooking—until further notice.

If the area wasn’t made up of primarily low-income migrant farmworkers, would action have been taken to repair the levee? According to records and interviews spanning decades, the answer is “yes.” 

In addition to constructing an adequate, permanent levee, which should have been done years ago, there’s a very costly mess that needs to be cleaned up and the possibility of a class action lawsuit. The multi-million dollar question: Who should be held accountable? 

Those who wish to help are asked to direct gifts specifically to the Pajaro area by noting “Pajaro” in the comment field of the donation pages: cfmco.org/storm relief or cfscc.org/disaster

Additionally, a couple of world-renowned music acts are donating some concert proceeds to Pajaro residents.

Adam Joseph | Interim Editor


ONLINE COMMENTS

RE: A Day Trip to Salinas

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East Lake Avenue at Holohan Road in Watsonville on Friday, March 10. Photograph by Tarmo Hannula

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GOOD IDEA

Santa Cruz Community Health (SCCH) and Dientes Community Dental are celebrating their hundredth day of care at their new facility on Capitola Road. Since opening the new building, Dientes and SCCH have served 6,000 patients. The duo provides health services to low-income patients, with the care center staffed with dentists, pediatrics, family doctors and more. dientes.org


GOOD WORK

Shopper’s Corner, Santa Cruz’s oldest grocery store, is hitting a milestone: 85 years in the biz. The store, which features a hearty wine selection, a butcher and fresh produce on par with farmers markets, is a longtime local fave and winner of several Best of Santa Cruz County awards. Andre Beauregard is now at the helm, taking over for his recently retired father. Help keep Shopper’s Corner going for another 85 years! shopperscorner.com


QUOTE OF THE WEEK

“Low-income neighborhoods and communities have always historically been ignored by state and federal governments.”

Luis Alejo, Monterey County Supervisor

3 COMMENTS

  1. Why doesn’t some real journalist write about “Why” elected officials haven’t done anything about re-enforcing the Pajaro River levee, list who they are and what if any have they done. Of course if the Santa Cruz river breached & flooded all down town pacific garden mall this wouldn’t even be an issue. My understanding is that the money is there, alas no construction. After all it’s only migrant workers that put food on your table, the day will come when there won’t be any local produce. This has been going on for decades, the days of Caesar Chavez are gone.

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  2. Governor Newsom said that 5 to 7 years was TOO LONG to complete the project to repair the levee. This project was proposed in the 1960’s, long before I moved to Northern CA.
    It should be obvious that the south county line is a perfect setup for mother nature to FLOOD. Everyone who buys property in Watsonville MUST purchase flood insurance. And when I moved to the VILLE, in 2015, I did.
    I am pleased that the college I represent on the board of trustees (district 7) has opened its gym to evacuees, run by the local Red Cross. But we can do more. The gym holds less than 100 evacuees.
    This is just one reason why we are going to build student housing on the lower campus of the college, followed in a few years by staff housing on the upper campus.
    We must recognize why the flooding situation was never fixed. Pajaro is a financially poor campesino community. Those who are not naturalized citizens , or who were not born here, cannot vote. This is an example of racist neglect for decades. If it were financially flush Rio Del Mar, do you think that 6 decades would have elapsed before building it?
    Get the flood control project built. and do it now. By the way, Pajaro , Aromas, Moss Landing and Las Lomas are all part of my district on the college board of trustees. Along with most of Watsonville outside of the downtown area.
    I have already asked President Matt Wetstein for a special project to help all the flood victims, as this situation is intolerable. Anyone who wishes to participate to help the Cabrillo college victims of the flood are welcome to help.

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